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Facebook updates hate speech policy to ban Holocaust denial

Oct. 12 (UPI) — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Monday that the company will update its hate speech policy to ban Holocaust denial.

Zuckerberg made the announcement in a Facebook post.

“We’ve taken down posts that praise hate crimes or mass murder, including the Holocaust. But with rising anti-Semitism, we’re expanding our policy to prohibit any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust as well,” the post read. “If people search for the Holocaust on Facebook, we’ll start directing you to authoritative sources to get accurate information.”

The update reverses Facebook’s earlier policy on the issue.

In 2018, Zuckerberg said in a Recode Decode podcast interview that the social media company does not want to ban Holocaust denial posts because people should be able to make unintentional mistakes.

“I don’t think they’re intentionally getting it wrong,” Zuckerberg said on the podcast at the time.

Facebook Vice President of Content Policy Monika Bickert released a statement on the policy change.

“Today’s announcement marks another step in our effort to fight hate on our services,” Bickert said in the statement. “Our decision is supported by the well-documented rise in anti-Semitism globally and the alarming level of ignorance about the Holocaust, especially among young people. According to a recent survey of adults in the US aged 18-39, almost a quarter said they believed the Holocaust was a myth, that it had been exaggerated or they weren’t sure.”

Bickert added enforcement of the updated policy wouldn’t happen overnight since it takes time “to train our reviewers and systems on enforcement.”

Bickert also said that online attacks against many groups are increasing worldwide, according to organizations that study trends in hate speech, and that Facebook has taken several steps to remove such content.

Among those steps, Facebook has banned more than 250 white supremacist organizations

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Facebook finally bans Holocaust denial content

It’s Facebook’s latest effort to stamp out anti-Semitism. The company recently banned “stereotypes about the collective power of Jews that often depicts them running the world or its major institutions,” as Bickert pointed out.

Facebook has been working with global and local groups such as the World Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Committee for several years to better understand how hatred is conveyed online. The company has also collaborated with organizations that tackle anti-Semitism, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

It’ll take some time before Facebook can effectively police this ban, Bickert wrote. The company will need to train its content reviewers and systems on how to tackle such content, as there’s a wide range of material that would violate the rules. Later this year, Facebook will start directing people who search for terms linked to Holocaust denial or the atrocity in general to “credible information” from third-party sources.

Facebook, which banned the QAnon conspiracy theory from its platform last week, has recently enacted more measures to reduce the spread of hate speech and other harmful content. Earlier this year, several major advertisers withheld ads or at least threatened to in order to pressure Facebook into taking more action.

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